« AnteriorContinuar »
She presently pronounced that the air was very hot in the rooms, and in fact wanted to go home to see her child. As we passed out, we saw Sir Barnes Newcome, eagerly smiling, smirking, bowing, and in the fondest conversation with his sister and Lord Farintosh. By Sir Barnes presently brushed Lieutenant-General Sir George Tufto, K.C.B., who, when he saw on whose foot he had trodden, grunted out, " H'm, beg your pardon !” and turning his back on Barnes, forthwith began complimenting Ethel and the Marquis. “ Served with your lordship’s father in Spain ; glad to make your lordship's acquaintance," says Sir George. Ethel bows to us as we pass out of the rooms, and we hear no more of Sir George's conversation.
In the cloak-room sits Lady Clara Newcome, with a gentleman bending over her, just in such an attitude as the bride is in Hogarth's “ Marriage à la Mode” as the counsellor talks to her. Lady Clara starts up as a crowd of blushes come into her wan face, and tries to smile, and rises to greet my wife, and says something about its being so dreadfully hot in the upper rooms, and so very tedious waiting for the carriages. The gentleman advances towards me with a military stride, and says, “How do you do, Mr. Pendennis ? How's our young friend, the painter ?" I answer Lord Highgate civilly enough, whereas my wife will scarce speak a word in reply to Lady Clara Newcome.
Lady Clara asked us to her ball, which my wife declined altogether to attend. Sir Barnes published a series of quite splendid entertaina ments on the happy occasion of his sister's betrothal. We read the names of all the clan Farintosh in the Morning Post, as attending these banquets. Mr. and Mrs. Hobson Newcome, in Bryanston Square, gave also signs of rejoicing at their niece's marriage. They had a grand banquet followed by a tea, to which latter amusement the present biographer was invited. Lady Ann, and Lady Kew and her granddaughter, and the Baronet and his wife, and my Lord Highgate and Sir George Tufto attended the dinner; but it was rather a damp entertainment. “Farintosh," whispers Sam Newcome, “sent word just before dinner that he had a sore throat, and Barnes was as sulky as possible. Sir George wouldn't speak to him, and the Dowager wouldn't speak to Lord Highgate. Scarcely anything was drank," concluded Mr. Sam, with a slight hiccup. “I say, Pendennis, how
with others of his parents' guests.
Thus the Newcomes entertained the Farintoshes, and the Farintoshes entertained the Newcomes. And the Dowager Countess of Kew went from assembly to assembly every evening, and to jewellers and upholsterers, and dressmakers every morning; and Lord Farintosh seemed to grow more and more attentive as the happy day approached, and he gave away all his cigars to his brother Rob; and his sisters were delighted with Ethel, and constantly in her company, and his mother was pleased with her, and thought a girl of her spirit and resolution would make a good wife for her son; and select crowds flocked to see the service of plate at Handyman's, and the diamonds which were being set for the lady; and Smee, R.A., painted her portrait, as a souvenir for mamma when Miss Newcome should be Miss Newcome no more; and Lady Kew made a will, leaving all she could leave to her beloved granddaughter, Ethel, daughter of the late Sir Brian Newcome, Baronet; and Lord Kew wrote an affectionate letter to his cousin, congratulating her, and wishing her happiness with all his heart; and I was glancing over The Times newspaper at breakfast one morning, when I laid it down with an exclamation which caused my wife to start with surprise.
6 What is it?" cries Laura, and I read as follows:
“DEATH OF THE COUNTESS DOWAGER OF KEW.-We regret to have to announce the awfully sudden death of this venerable lady. Her ladyship, who had been at several parties of the nobility the night before last, seemingly in perfect health, was seized with a fit as she was waiting for her carriage, and about to quit Lady Pallgrave's assembly. Immediate medical assistance was procured, and her ladyship was carried to her own house, in Queen Street, May Fair. But she never rallied, or, we believe, spoke, after the first fatal seizure, and sank at eleven o'clock last evening. The deceased, Louisa Joanna Gaunt, widow of Frederick, first Earl of Kew, was daughter of Charles, Earl of Gaunt, and sister of the late and aunt of the present Marquis of Steyne. The present Earl of Kew is her ladyship’s grandson, his lordship's father, Lord Walham, having died before his own father, the first earl. Many noble families are placed in mourning by this sad event. Society has to deplore the death of a lady who has been its ornament for more than half a century, and who was known, we may say, throughout Europe for her remarkable sense, extraordinary memory, and brilliant wit.""
BARNES'S SKELETON CLOSET. THE demise of Lady Kew of course put a stop for a while to the
matrimonial projects so interesting to the house of Newcome. Hymen blew his torch out, put it into the cupboard for use on a future day, and exchanged his garish saffron-coloured robe for decent temporary mourning. Charles Honeyman improved the occasion at Lady Whittlesea's chapel hard by; and “Death at the Festival” was one of his most thrilling sermons; reprinted at the request of some of the congregation. There were those of his flock, especially a pair whose quarter of the fold was the organ-loft, who were always charmed with the piping of that melodious pastor.
Shall we too, while the coffin yet rests on the outer earth's surface, enter the chapel whither these void remains of our dear sister departed are borne by the smug undertaker's gentlemen, and pronounce an elegy over that bedizened box of corruption ? When the young are stricken down, and their roses nipped in an hour by the destroying blight, even the stranger can sympathize, who counts the scant years. on the gravestone, or reads the notice in the newspaper corner. The contrast forces itself on you. A fair young creature, bright and blooming yesterday, distributing smiles, levying homage, inspiring desire, conscious of her power to charm, and gay with the natural enjoyment of her conquests—who in his walk through the world has not looked on many such a one; and, at the notion of her sudden call away from beauty, triumph, pleasure; her helpless outcries during her short pain; her vain pleas for a little respite; her sentence, and its execution; has not felt a shock of pity? When the days of a long life come to its close, and a white head sinks to rise no more, we bow our own with respect as the mourning train passes, and salute the heraldry and devices of yonder pomp, as symbols of age, wisdom, deserved respect and merited honour; long experience of suffering and action. The wealth he may have achieved is the harvest which he sowed; the titles on his hearse, fruits of the field he bravely and laboriously wrought in. But to live to fourscore years, and be found dancing among the idle virgins! to have had near a century of allotted time, and then be called away from the giddy notes of a May Fair fiddle! To have to yield
your roses too, and then drop out of the bony clutch of your old fingers a wreath that came from a Parisian band-box!. One fancies around some graves unseen troops of mourners waiting; many and many a poor pensioner trooping to the place; many weeping charities; many kind actions; many dear friends beloved and deplored, rising up at the toll of that bell to follow the honoured hearse; dead parents waiting above, and calling, “ Come, daughter!” lost children, heaven's foundlings, hovering round like cherubim, and whispering, “ Welcome, mother!” Here is one who reposes after a long feast where no love has been; after girlhood without kindly maternal nurture; marriage without affection; matronhood without its precious griefs and joys; after fourscore years of lonely vanity. Let us take off our hats to that procession too as it passes, admiring the different lots awarded to the children of men, and the various usages to which Heaven puts its creatures. - Leave we yonder velvet-palled box, spangled with fantastic heraldry, and containing within the aged slough and envelope of a soul gone to render its account. Look rather at the living audience standing round the shell;--the deep grief on Barnes Newcome's fine countenance; the sadness depicted in the face of the most noble the Marquis of Farintosh; the sympathy of her ladyship's medical man (who came in the third mourning carriage); better than these, the awe, and reverence, and emotion, exhibited in the kind face of one of the witnesses of this scene, as he listens to those words which the priest rehearses over our dead. What magnificent words ! what a burning faith; what a glorious triumph; what a heroic life, death, hope, they record! They are read over all of us alike; as the sun shines on just and unjust. We have all of us heard them; and I have fancied for my part, that they fell and smote like the sods on the coffin.
The ceremony over, the undertaker's gentlemen clamber on the roof of the vacant hearse, into which palls, tressels, trays of feathers, are inserted, and the horses break out into a trot, and the empty carriages, expressing the deep grief of the deceased lady's friends, depart homeward. It is remarked that Lord Kew hardly has any communication with his cousin, Sir Barnes Newcome. His lordship jumps into a cab, and goes to the railroad. Issuing from the cemetery, the Marquis of Farintosh hastily orders that thing to be taken off his hat, and returns to town in his brougham, smoking a cigar. Sir Barnes Newcome rides in the brougham beside Lord Farintosh, as far as Oxford Street, where he gets a cab, and goes to the City. For business is business, and must be attended to, though grief be ever so severe. . A very short time previous to her demise, Mr. Rood (that was Mr. Rood-that other little gentleman in black, who shared the third
mourning coach along with her ladyship’s medical man) had executed a will by which almost all the Countess's property was devised to her granddaughter, Ethel Newcome. Lady Kew's decease of course delayed the marriage projects for a while. The young heiress returned to her mother's house in Park Lane. I daresay the deep mourning habiliments in which the domestics of that establishment appeared were purchased out of the funds left in his hands, which Ethel's banker and brother had at her disposal.
Sir Barnes Newcome, who was one of the trustees of his sister's property, grumbled no doubt because his grandmother had bequeathed to him but a paltry recompence of five hundred pounds for his pains and trouble of trusteeship; but his manner to Ethel was extremely bland and respectful: an heiress now, and to be marchioness in a few months, Sir Barnes treated her with a very different regard to that which he was accustomed to show to other members of his family.. For while this worthy baronet would contradict his mother at every word she uttered, and take no pains to disguise his opinion that Lady Ann's intellect was of the very poorest order, he would listen deferentially to Ethel's smallest observations, exert himself to amuse her under her grief, which he chose to take for granted was very severe, visit her constantly, and show the most charming solicitude for her general comfort and welfare.
During this time my wife received frequent notes from Ethel Newcome, and the intimacy between the two ladies much increased. Laura was so unlike the women of Ethel's circle, the young lady was pleased to say, that to be with her was Ethel's greatest comfort. Miss Newcome was now her own mistress, had her carriage, and would drive day after day to our cottage at Richmond. The frigid society of Lord Farintosh's sisters, the conversation of his mother, did not amuse Ethel, and she escaped from both with her usual impatience of control. She was at home every day dutifully to receive my lord's visits, but though she did not open her mind to Laura as freely regarding the young gentleman as she did when the character and disposition of her future mother and sisters-in-law was the subject of their talk, I could see, from the grave look of commiseration which my wife's face bore after her young friend's visits, that Mrs. Pendennis augured rather ill of the future happiness of this betrothed pair.. Once, at Miss Newcome's special request, I took my wife to see her in Park Lane, where the Marquis of Farintosh found us. His lordship and I had already a half-acquaintance, which was not, however, improved after my regular presentation to him by Miss Newcome: he scowled at me with a countenance indicative of anything but welcome, and did not seem in the least more pleased when Ethel entreated her friend Laura not to take her bonnet not to think of